Alex Ledger the MD of SkySchool met up with Babu Sunuwar just after his epic flight from Mt Kilimanjaro.
This what he had to say:
Alex: Babu, firstly many congratulations on becoming the first man to legally fly from Mt Kilimanjaro. Before we come to the flight itself can you tell me about the build up to the the Wings of Kilimanjaro expedition?
Babu: In 2012 I was invited to take part in the expedition by Adrian McRae and in January I left Nepal for Tanzania. I only received the Takoo 2 tandem wing from Niviuk one day before leaving Kathmandu. The first time I saw the wing was when I had a short test flight in Tanzania just before the expedition.
Alex: What was it like meeting the other pilots and climbing the mountain?
Babu: It was good to meet all of the other pilots to share experiences and knowledge, and it was a fantastic feeling to be like one big paragliding family. We spent 7 days climbing the mountain together however the weather was terrible so most of the other pilots decided to descend the mountain, as did my tandem passenger. I ended up summitting the mountain 3 times and decided to stay near the crater of the mountain with 8 other pilots, where we had to be resupplied with water and chocolate by helicopter.
Alex: What happened before your flight?
Babu: After 3 nights camping near the summit my porter said he did not want to fly with me however my guide said he would. He had never flown before and knew nothing about Paragliding and I had only met him on the day I flew. However he was still very happy to fly with me so we left at 9.00am and headed to the summit. The conditions were completely different to Mt Everest because there was a very strong 75 kph north wind. I spent 2 hours trying to take off in the lee side. twice we took off and crashed back to the ground. I finally managed to take off from Stella Point on the south side of the mountain around 11.30am on the 7th February 2013.
Alex: What was the flight like?
Babu: It was very turbulent when I took off due to the rotor from the mountain and I had a tail wind of more than 75kph, caused by the cold wind dropping down on the south side. After less than 5 minutes I was in thick cloud and flew threw this for 45 minutes. It was very wet and turbulent however I was not scared because I was so focused on flying the glider. Due to the high lift and sink there was lot of pitch movement however the glider was fantastic in the turbulence and had no collapses, which gave me a lot of confidence. Only once did I see through the cloud and realized that I was actually above the top of the mountain.
Alex: Did you have any instruments to help you? I did not have any instruments because they had all run out of battery. Instead I used the sun to navigate and flew away from it in order to find my landing area. There were 3 layers of clouds, one at the summit, then two more lower down. It was not a good time to fly however I had been on the summit for 3 days and simply wanted to fly. I therefore took a big risk and luckily for me I managed to land safely.
Babu: Upon landing I was very happy and proud. I was the first Nepalese pilot to fly from Kilimanjaro and the first pilot to do so officially. This was also my second flight from one of the 7 summits. After landing more than 100 children came running up to me and were all smiling and congratulating me. All of the other Wings of Kilimanjaro pilots were also very happy for me and I enjoyed sharing my experience with them back at the hotel in the evening.
Alex: I know you have people you want to thank.
Babu: Thank you to Adrian, Paula and everyone involved in the Wings of Kilimanjaro expedition. I had a fantastic experience and have fallen in love with Africa and hope to return again one day. Now it’s time to train for the Red Bull X Alps (checkout his facebook page here)!
Words: Alex Ledger